By Henry Umoru
•Adds states will go bankrupt, to meet Buhari
•Downsizing, new revenue formula is way out
ABUJA — THE thirty- six state governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, met last night in Abuja, saying only Lagos State Government can pay the new minimum wage of N30,000.
The governors also resolved to downsize, if they must pay the new minimum wage.
They, however, at the meeting the NGF emergency meeting, resolved to send another delegation to President Muhammadau Buhari to canvass their position on the new Minimum Wage.
Members of the committee to see President Buhari are governors of Lagos, Akinwumi Ambode; Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State; Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; Dave Umahi of Benue State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
The governors insisted that though they were willing to pay any amount, asking all states to pay N30,000 demanded by organized labour would render many states bankrupt, saying the only way states could pay was to either downsize their workforce or the Federal Government agrees to a new revenue allocation formula.
Chairman of the NGF and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who spoke for the governors at the end of the meeting, said governors resolved to “re-strategize and put together another committee to meet the President to once again to work out another formula towards quick resolution of the problem associated with the proposed N30,000 minimum wage.”
According to him, it is impracticable for governors to pay the new minimum wage unless labour agrees to a downsizing of the work force all over the country.
President Buhari received the report of the Tripartite Committee last Tuesday but did not endorse the proposal made by the committee.
Speaking further, Yari explained: “We have seen what has been presented to the President by the committee. As a member of the committee, governors (representative) said the committee did not take our submission of N22,500 because it came late.
“I am surprised how you can do this without the input of the states, because the states are the key stakeholders in this business.
“In a situation where our report is not taken or considered by the tripartite committee in its report to the President, I don’t know how the committee expects us to work.
“But we still say we want to pay but the issue is the ability to pay. I don’t know how this formula will come and I don’t know how we can get solution to the issue.
“We are not able to N18,000 today. When the President assumed office, 27 states were not able to pay; not that they choose not to pay, now you say N30,000. How many of them can pay? We will be bankrupt.
“So, as Nigerians, we should look at the issues seriously. While other people are saying governors are flying jets and living in affluence, that one is not luxury but compulsory.
“Put together, the issue of government overhead cost with personnel cost still cannot solve this problem.
“Like Lagos that is paying about N7 billion as salaries, if you say it should pay N30,000, now it will be N13 billion.
“From our calculation, it is only Lagos State that will be able to pay N30,000. As Nigerians, this is our country, there is no other country we have and we should be fair to this country.
“As for the way forward, we will continue to talk with Labour, let them see reasons governors have difficulties.
“Some of us have IGR. For instance, the money Lagos State is using to pay is not coming from Abuja. They have a way of getting their money from IGR and that is why they can afford to pay. They get money through VAT.
“Apart from Lagos, even Rivers cannot afford to pay. So, we have been crying out about this since 2011 but no one cared to listen.
“One critical example is that some states ration their salaries, while some others put everything they earn on the table and ask labour to come and see and ask them to suggest how much should go for capital and personnel cost.
“Some say 70% for personnel cost and 30 %for capital projects and yet the states cannot pay and they put the remaining as outstanding.
“If you are talking about oil, the price is not what it used to be. From last year to date, it is $20 less, from $75 to $55 dollars. So, where is the money to pay?
“We should not exploit this matter further. We are leaders today, tomorrow others will be. So, let’s look at this matter seriously to see how we can do it properly. It is our primary responsibility to see that everybody is happy.’’
It will be recalled that organized labour had Tuesday, warned that any attempt to delay or truncate the agreed N30, 000 national minimum wage would have a devastating effect on the country.
Speaking through the President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Bobboi Kaigama while addressing members of ASCSN National Executive Council, NEC, meeting, stressed the on the need for the government to fast-track implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage
Kaigama, who is also the President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, insisted that Nigerian workers expected the Federal Government to complete the process of new wage before the end of this year.
According to him: “It is apt to state that against all odds, the Tripartite Committee that negotiated the new Minimum Wage was to able to scale all hurdles and agreed to the sum of N30,000 as the new minimum wage for the country. It is on this premise that I strongly want to appeal to the Federal Government to fast track the process of enacting the new National Minimum Wage into law.